Read Time: 6 mins

Written by Michelle McDonagh

Employers – 6 steps to Create an Ongoing COVID-19 Strategy

According to recent health reports, COVID-19 is not going away in the near future. As business owners, we have to change our mindset to strictly follow the regulations to keep our people safe, our businesses functioning and avoid potential health and safety claims. Our initial COVID-19 response involved firefighting and making short term decisions to get by. It is time to take a more strategic approach.

 

covid19 Hr Strategy

6 steps to Create an Ongoing COVID-19 Strategy

1. Make sure you have a robust bespoke COVID-19 Response Plan

2. Create a remote or flexible working policy

3. Ensure every staff member has an up to date contract of employment

4. Create an organisational chart to reflect current commitments

5. Keep Communicating with your Staff

6. Allow Staff Time to Adapt to New Work Situations

1. Make sure you have a robust bespoke COVID-19 Response Plan

It is not enough to circulate the government’s generic protocols. To make the necessary protocols tangible, support compliance and inspire confidence in your staff teams, you must have answers to specific questions that your staff may have. For example,

  • Will the kitchen be open?
  • Where can I store my lunch if I bring it in?
  • Can I still get a lift to work with my colleague?
  • Will you be providing tableware?
  • Will I still have access to drinking water?
  • Do you have extra handwash stations?
  • Will break times be staggered?
  • Do I have to wear a mask or protective headwear all the time? Can I choose which one I prefer?
  • Will we be put into specific pods that do not mix?
  • When are we going back? When is the induction?
  • What if I have concerns, who can I talk to?

2. Create a remote or flexible working policy

We will continue to have some or all of our teams working remotely going forward. For some, this will become a permanent change, while others are doing so on a needs basis. Many businesses have drawn up temporary COVID-19 remote working policies, which are not contracted permanent changes. In August 2019, a new EU Directive came into force: the EU Directive on Work-Life Balance. Member states have three years within which to implement the Directive. For both of these reasons, now is the time to launch longer-term policies to give guidance to staff on how to apply for remote/flexible working arrangements as a contracted change to terms of employment.

Living through the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of life outside work and commuting. People want to make permanent changes in light of this to avoid falling back into the old patterns. A recent survey by jobs.ie showed that 40% of employee surveyed said they would like to continue to work remotely and almost 50% would be happy to do both.

Taking a proactive stance on this may stop some of your team resigning and will ease anxiety that people are carrying about being asked to return to the office.

Creating a Work from Home Policy Eliminates Grey Areas

Businesses do not have to grant permission to all staff who want to work remotely. Creating a policy allows you to take control of the process, set out the boundaries of how decisions will be made and specific requirements you may have for all remote working staff e.g. automatic trial period of 12 months.

Read our blog about Managing Employees who are Working From Home here.

3. Ensure every staff member has an up to date contract of employment

It is critical that there is a shared understanding between employers and employees of the contractual obligations to staff. Clarify the following issues such as:

  • Is it a permanent or a fixed-term contract?
  • How many hours per week must be paid?
  • Were changes like lay off, short time, reduced working hours /pay, TWSS, EWSS etc. captured in writing?

4. Create an organisational chart to reflect current commitments

Ensure the business can present a written organisational chart to explain how it is structured. Every person should be reflected by a role on that chart and every role should have a job profile behind it listing role purpose, key accountabilities, skills and experience required.

Create Revenue Projections for the next 12 months

Then work with your accountant to analyse the revenue streams for each part of your business and examine projections for the next 12 months.

Plan for Likely Scenarios

Engage in scenario planning to explore what changes may need to be made and at what milestones the decision should be made.

Create an Action Plan and Review it Weekly

Generally, a short-term action plan should come from that session and direct focus on what is within our control day-to-day to manage the unfolding situation. A weekly review of this plan should allow progress to be tracked and changes to be made for the following weeks actions.

 5. Keep Communicating with your Staff

In times of uncertainty and change, there can be a tendency to withdraw from interactions with others. Now more than ever, the managers and leaders of organisations need to step forward and inspire confidence in their teams.

By engaging in the exercise in step 4, businesses can give direction to staff about what is within their control. It creates activity through short term action plans and reviews. It creates a sense of collegiality or togetherness in doing what we can, as a team to get through and be innovative in creating solutions. Be honest about the path ahead. There are no guarantees of avoiding difficult decisions but the alternative is at best stagnation and at worst despair and panic.

You don’t need to have all the answers.

It is okay to not have all the answers – no one does. The focus is on making progress every day with the cards we are dealt.

Actively engage in exercises to improve communications at all levels, whether its manager and employee one to one’s, e-coffee catch ups, team goal setting sessions, individuals performance reviews & development planning, all hands/town hall meetings, update memo’s, social events online, mental health support sessions online, sharing resources, intranet, success / happy news stories, employee surveys, focus groups etc.

6. Allow Staff Time to Adapt to New Work Situations

The context we are now operating within has thrown up challenges in how different generations and different personality styles are adapting. Not everyone is coping particularly well. For some, the fear of catching the virus personally or bringing it home to family/friends is a real threat. Other people in different situations may not understand just how frightening that is.

In DISC behavioural profiling, we talk about the S for Steadiness. It measures the pace and consistency at which we like to work. Those scoring as a dominant S will really be struggling with the constant need to change quickly. This pressure against how they prefer to live life is a great cause of stress and will inhibit their performance over time.

Allow time to consider these factors, often outside peoples control. They are not always being difficult for the sake of causing trouble. Take time to understand the issues and work collaboratively to figure out how to move forward.

Let us know how you are coping with the ongoing COVID-19 situation in your business.

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If you would like to discuss any Human Resources matters with Aspire HR, email us now at michelle@aspirehr.ie

or call Michelle on 086 878 2557

©Aspire HR. This document is intended to be a general guide only.